A Gift of Dharma for 11.14.09
by Danny Fisher
Today’s quote comes to us from yet another of my former Naropa University professors: The 7th Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Karma Sungrap Ngedon Tenpa Gyaltsen.
Ponlop Rinpoche was born in 1965 at Rumtek Monastery, the seat of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa, in Sikkim, India. His father was Dhamchö Yongdu, the General Secretary of His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, and his mother is Lekshey Drolma, who “comes from a family of intellectuals and artists.” His Holiness the Karmapa prophesized the birth and recognized him as the seventh in the line of Dzogchen Ponlop incarnations. He was formerly enthroned as the Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche at age three, ordained as a novice Buddhist monk at nine, and began studies at Rumtek at twelve.
According to his official biography, “he has received most of the Buddhist teachings and empowerments of the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions from His Holiness the 16th Karmapa and His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.” His primary teacher, however, has been the great Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. He also received teachings and transmissions from Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, Tulku Ugyen Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche, Alak Zenkar Rinpoche, and others.
Ponlop Rinpoche first traveled to Europe, the United States, Canada, and other parts of Asia as an attendant to His Holiness the Karmapa during his world teaching tour in 1980. The following year, “he entered the monastic college at Rumtek, Karma Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies, an affiliate of Sampurnanant Sanskrit University in Varanasi, (U.P.) India.” By 1990, he had graduated and “simultaneously earned the degree of Acharya, or Master of Buddhist Philosophy, from Sampurnanant Sanskrit University.” He also went on to study English and comparative religions at Columbia University.
Today, Rinpoche resides in Seattle, but maintains an international presence. He is the founder of Nitartha International, which was created “to assist in the integration of computer technology with traditional Tibetan scholarship.” He is also the founder of Nalandabodhi, which was created ”to preserve the genuine lineage of the Nyingma and Kagyu Schools of Tibetan Buddhism.”
In 1998, at request of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, he became director of the Kamalashila Institute of Germany. Then, in 2003, under the supervision of Khenchen Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, he founded Nalanda West, “a new international events center for Nalandabodhi in Seattle, Washington as a place for the genuine teachings and transmission of the pure wisdom of Buddhism to the west.”
In addition, he also helped to establish the Nitartha Institute, “which provides a focused Buddhist studies program.” Ponlop Rinpoche is also abbot of Dzogchen Monastery, and he supervises the website Nalandabodhi.org.
A prolific author, he has written such books as Mind Beyond Death, Penetrating Wisdom: The Aspiration Prayer of Samantabhadra, and Wild Awakening: The Heart of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. He is also the publisher of Bodhi Magazine.
Here’s the quote–it’s something Rinpoche said as part of a forum on “How to Be a Student” for the Winter 2005 issue of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly:
We are always taught that we have to rely on the guru up to a certain point, then we have to rely on our inner guru. That wisdom of being able to be your own guru comes from the blessings, the kindness, of your own teacher. Therefore, you are never parted from your teacher. On the other hand, we must go through the pain of growing up, which is like leaving home. There is a sense of loneliness, but it’s a valuable kind of loneliness, because we are growing up spiritually. The loneliness is a quite profound experience.
[Image via Snow Lion Publications.]